Starting Smart – Make an Impact at your New Job

March 28, 2011 by Shweta Handa-Gupta

Congratulations, you’ve taken your first step to success, you’ve landed that job. You obviously managed to impress people in the interview, that’s why you are here. So, are you asking yourself questions like – Will I fit in? How will my co-workers view me? Will I be able to live up to the expectations I set in the interview? (Let’s be honest, many of us oversell ourselves during the interview) Or are you confident that you are going to be amongst the best?

Either way, it makes sense to invest time and energy in ensuring you make a positive impression. First impressions can turn into long-term perceptions and can have a significant impact on your future success.

Some of the obvious things that it is essential to manage in your first job are

a) Ensuring you dress to look presentable and professional. Wearing a smile is as important as the clothes.

b) Establishing yourself as a productive employee by working full days, maintaining good attendance and keeping personal work at office to a minimum.

c) Listening more than talking for the first few days and making efforts to absorb and note down the important information.

d) Getting to know your colleagues and establishing rapports.

But to stand out, you need more than that. Here are some tips that will help you settle down and start making a difference faster.

I. Make your place – In most cases, you would enter an existing team which already has established relationships, roles, habits and culture. You need to figure out the unwritten rules and norms to make a space for yourself. Even if you want to change things, it is wise to first fit in, establish your credibility and then start suggesting changes.

Make an effort to get to know people across the organization by introducing yourself and learning about them. It’s good to look up people online but avoid sending networking/friendship requests till you’ve established your offline relationships.

II. Take Initiative and go the extra mile – Initially, you may be given smaller doses of work to allow you to settle in and learn the ropes. As you finish an assignment, don’t wait for someone to give you more work. Instead, volunteer pro-actively to take on responsibility and work. This will not only help you progress faster on the learning curve but also in your career.

Also, be flexible and don’t watch the clock. If you occasionally have to do something additional or stay late to meet a deadline, it will show your commitment and you will always be noticed if you go the extra mile.

III. Find a Mentor – You don’t have to rush into this, but over the first few months, start identifying senior people outside your department who you could develop a mentoring relationship with. A senior person who is not in your reporting line can be good sounding board, can help with tricky questions you can’t ask your boss, can also help you figure out how to work the system and, most important, help direct and advance your career.

IV. Keep your Boss in the loop – Especially in the early days, it is important to regularly request meetings with your boss to build a rapport. Remember, he is going to be the major influencer of your appraisal so it is important for you to know what he values, to ask him to set goals for you and to keep him apprised of your work and accomplishments.

This does not mean you should run to him with every hiccup. It is important to represent yourself as a self-starter who can navigate through the day-to-day issues.

V. Don’t hesitate to ask questions/ ask for help – Nobody expects you to know everything on day one. We often feel like we have something to prove in a new job and think twice before admitting we don’t know something or that we need help. But it’s okay to ask for help as long as you take charge once you’ve been pointed in the right direction and don’t keep going back.

VI. Be yourself – It’s important to put your best foot forward but don’t try to project something you are not. It will be difficult to keep an act all the time in a place where you will spend a large part of your waking hours. It’s better to stick to what you can sustain because building trust and credibility is the foundation of any successful career.

Being the newbie in any situation presents challenges as well as opportunities. Keep an open mind, network, never stop learning and don’t lose focus. These will keep you on the right track to success.

This article was first published in The Financial Express as part of Shweta Handa-Gupta’s guest column

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